Everywhere you turn there are instruments, big and little, that come from exotic places like Africa or Turkey and familiar places like the United States. Materials range from bamboo to PVC piping.
The sea of world instruments that fill Music Explorium in Carrboro, whether plastic or wood, large or small, come with a common theme. They are easy to play even for the musically inept.
"We try to get a lot of instruments in that anyone can play," said Jubal Creech, an employee.
The store resounds with the sound of people banging, shaking and blowing on instruments and their subsequent exclamations of "cool" and "wow."
The hands-on policy that Music Explorium has is unusual for a music store: Employees are more likely to join in playing one of the instruments than scolding a customer for touching a gong or xylophone.
Paul Simon's percussionist, Jamey Haddad, marveled at the fact that the store carried items he played but had never seen sold in a retail store.
"I really appreciate their hands-on policy so people can really play," said Leigh Hall, a regular visitor to the store. "This place is an asset to the town.
"I've never seen a place quite like it."
And owner Blaise Kielar likes it that way. After studying musicology at New York University, Kielar came to Chapel Hill in the late '70s. He managed Hillmusic Fine Violins for 12 years, while teaching violin and clarinet on the side. Among these classes included one titled "Improvising Music For Everyone." Kielar said he found that not only do world music instruments invite improvisation but also that their cheap and user-friendly nature make them ideal for the novice musician to try out.
These findings fueled the creation of the Music Explorium, he said. "One of the goals of the store is to get more people playing music, especially people who don't play," Kielar said.
The store opened in 1999, and it enjoyed the success of being named the Best New Local Business in the Triangle by The Independent Weekly's readers last year.
Some of the rarer instruments Kielar carries are the shofar, a horn that is blown to mark the Jewish new year; the udu, a clay drum from Turkey; and the goje, a one-stringed instrument from Ghana.
The assortment of strange names and places that the instruments claim seems to have no end.
Kielar makes a conscious effort to find quality instruments to offer in his store. He gets his didgeridoos from an Aboriginal family in Australia, and recently he has hired and trained new employees so that he will have the chance to travel and find more instruments to offer. "We have instruments for everyone," Kielar said. "Wind instruments, mouth instruments, percussion instruments -- there are no wrong notes."
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